The power of prayer

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when we are called to hone our attention on our own frailty and deep need of God’s mercy and loving care. One of the best ways we can do this is by drawing close to God in simple, candid prayer.

This week we share the stories of two women whose lives have been powerfully reshaped and renewed by just this kind of heartfelt prayer. In the lead-up to this Sunday’s Rite of Election, catechumen Samantha Whittaker tells us how she rediscovered the God of Mercy, and how it ignited her prayer life. And Mary Brockhoff shares the story of her miraculous, prayer-fuelled recovery from the cardiac arrest that stopped her heart for 17 minutes and, remarkably, brought her and her family closer to God.

Project Compassion 2024 launched on Shrove Tuesday, reminding us that our deep need of God’s mercy is not just individual but global, and that each of us is ‘called, chosen and sent’ to be conduits of God’s love as we serve those in need.

As we ready ourselves for Lent, there are signs everywhere in the life of our Church of the liberation, vitality and healing that comes when we abandon ourselves to our loving God. Last weekend, the Sudanese community came together in parishes across Melbourne to celebrate the inspiring life and witness of their patron St Josephine Bakhita; similarly, the Croatian community honoured the mercy and courage of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac; and more than a thousand gathered for the annual Lourdes Day Mass, where the sick and infirm were encouraged to ‘go to the spring’ of God’s healing, life-giving love.

You can find lots more stories below on what’s been happening in the Archdiocese of Melbourne and beyond, or you can visit the Melbourne Catholic news and stories page or follow us on Facebook. To connect with people and events across the Archdiocese, check out our events page for what’s coming up soon.

Finding the God of mercy: a catechumen’s story
In the lead-up to the Rite of Election on Sunday 18 February, Samantha Whittaker, one of the catechumens from Werribee Parish, generously shares her story with us—a story of discovering who God really is, and of how this has awakened her life of prayer.
Mary Brockhoff, a personal witness to the power of prayer
Mary Brockhoff was strolling behind her trolly through the confectionary aisle of a Coles supermarket on 30 August 2022 with her 11-year-old daughter Bethany, feeling fine, when she suddenly collapsed. She had suffered a heart attack. Mary shares her ‘miracle’ story of recovery, and how grateful she is for the power of prayer, community and faith in God.
Serving others in love: Project Compassion 2024 officially launches
On Tuesday 13 February, Caritas Australia officially launched their 2024 Project Compassion campaign at the Academy of Mary Immaculate College, Fitzroy. Representatives from Caritas Australia shared about the incredible impact a little generosity has on the lives of struggling people around the world.
‘Her journey is like our journey’: Sudanese community celebrates St Josephine Bakhita
Members of the local Sudanese Catholic community gathered in parishes over the weekend to celebrate the feast of St Josephine Bakhita. Bishop Anthony Ireland celebrated Mass at St Anthony’s in Noble Park, where he paid tribute to St Josephine who, he said, ‘is a sister to everyone and shows us the way to true happiness—by living the Beatitudes. Her goodness in her ability and willingness to forgive brings comfort to the people of the Sudan who have endured so much suffering.’
Croatian community celebrates hero and martyr Blessed Aloysius Stepinac
On Saturday 10 February, St Patrick’s Cathedral was filled with the music and colours of Melbourne’s Croatian Catholic community as they gathered to celebrate the feast of Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac, a man who, as Archbishop of Zagreb, helped rescue thousands of Jews from the cruelty of the Nazis.
‘Go to the spring’: Crowds gather for annual Lourdes Day Mass
More than a thousand gathered for the annual Lourdes Day Mass held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday 10 February. Hosted by local members of the Order of Malta, the Mass is an opportunity for those who are sick and infirm to receive a blessing and water sourced from the spring of the Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes.
‘I don’t think prayer has to be complex or long—simply heartfelt. Our Father loves to talk to his children, and he loves to spend time with us ... Prayer is about our love relationship with the Father and not some obligation on a to-do list.’
Catechumen Samantha Whittaker
on the important role of prayer in the awakening of her Catholic faith
Upcoming events
‘Graced Beyond Telling’ by Corrie van den Bosch: Book launch
Thursday 15 February 2024
7.00pm–8.00pm
Join the Missionary Sisters of Service for the official launch of Corrie van den Bosch new book, Graced Beyond Telling—A Soul’s Dark Journey. Published by Coventry Press, this book tells the story of Corrie’s growing up in life, in faith, and in self-discovery. It is a story of finding inner...
Cathedral grand organ recital featuring Thomas Heywood
Friday 16 February 2024
6.00pm–7.00pm
Internationally renowned Australian organ virtuoso Thomas Heywood returns to St Patrick’s Cathedral to open the 2024 Concert Series. In a thrilling program where ‘Beethoven meets the Dubois centenary’, Heywood plays his transcriptions of two famous Beethoven orchestral overtures to Egmont and Coriolan, as well as the rousing last movement of...
Rite of Election 2024 at St Patrick’s Cathedral
Sunday 18 February 2024
3.00pm–4.00pm
The Rite of Election is a significant occasion in the life of our local church in Melbourne. It marks the beginning of our catechumens and candidates’ final preparations to receive the sacraments of initiation. Join Archbishop Peter A Comensoli and the Proclaim team at the Rite of Election for 2024...
Prayer for peace with the community of Sant’Egidio
Monday 19 February 2024
8.00pm–9.00pm
Join the Sant’Egidio communities around the world in praying for peace. The Community of Sant’Egidio is a Christian community born in a secondary school in the centre of Rome in 1968, right after the Second Vatican Council. Over the years, it has become a network of communities in more than...
Public forum: The journey with a restorative approach to infertility
Saturday 24 February 2024
9.00am–10.00am
As part of their 2024 conference, the Australian Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine (AIRRM) is offering a free public forum that aims to shed light on the challenges of infertility and the hope and positive outcomes that can come with a restorative approach to health and fertility. Hear the story...
Great Women of Faith: Portrait exhibition by Barbara Skorupa
Friday 1 March 2024, 9.00am
– Sunday 10 March 2024, 4.00pm
This unique exhibition in St Patrick's Cathedral will feature 24 beautiful portraits of extraordinary women of faith by Cologne-based artist Barbara Skorupa. The portraits have been selected from the artist's collection of more than 100 paintings of extraordinary women from different cultures and eras, including Australians St Mary of the...
‘Poets and the Faith: Gerard Manley Hopkins’, presented by Prof Dorothy Lee
Tuesday 12 March 2024
6.00pm–7.30pm
St Peter's Eastern Hill is hosting a series of talks about significant poets who have inhabited—or skirted the fringes—of the Anglican and Catholic traditions of Christianity.From Gerard Manley Hopkins to RS Thomas, from Emily Brontë to WH Auden, how did their poetry enrich and challenge their understanding of the faith...
Celebrating 50 years of Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Australia: ‘Love and respect’ formation day
Saturday 16 March 2024
8.30am–5.15pm
A special formation day is being offered to mark the 50th anniversary of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) in Australia. WWME is a weekend away offering married couples a special kind of ‘time out’—a different kind of ‘weekend getaway’. Based on Catholic values, the ministry started in Spain in the...

To learn more about upcoming events and opportunities, visit the Melbourne Catholic events page.

This newsletter is published by the Communications Office
of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

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